By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Bottom line, Jim Heath is one of the last links remaining to the old Deep Ellum, back when it was dangerous and daring, a little slice of NYC just off downtown, instead of a sea of roof decks and dollar-drink specials. He's always been one of Dallas' best ambassadors, taking that knives-out feeling with him everywhere he goes. The group's on the road from now until August without a break, supporting its latest album, Lucky 7, which, by the way, contains a de facto tribute to those old days, "Loco Gringos Like a Party." It's no coincidence that it's the band's best record in years.
If you think I'm setting up the Rev so I can knock him down again, don't sweat it; we've already made our peace with him. Not that it was our idea. Heath called us late last year, out of the blue, and we had a come-to-Jesus meeting. Specifically, he wanted to know why I hated him. I explained that I didn't, all evidence to the contrary aside. And even if I did, in fact, hate him, there was no chance of that feeling continuing after Heath's phone call. Just by picking up the phone, he proved who was the better man. We hung up, agreeing to a fresh start. With that in mind, I did, I can admit now, say some things in the heat of the moment, words you can't really take back once they appear in black and white. All I can do is apologize. Maybe I was a little angry because the Rev's later albums (Spend a Night in the Box, Space Heater, It's Martini Time) didn't live up to the earlier ones (Smoke 'em if You Got 'em, The Full-Custom Gospel Sounds of...), and how could they? Looking back, if the group lost a step over the years, it was one they had to give. --Z.C.
Winner for: Blues
Deep Ellum, the section once known for its hometown and just-passing-through blues legends and the dives and juke joints that housed them, is now home to precious little blues music. There are the weekly jams, the occasional concerts and a cast of Stevie Ray Vaughan-a-bees. But luckily the "ringmaster of the blues jams" is also a master of the blues as a history and a performance art. Calling himself Hash Brown, Brian Calway plays literally dozens of shows a month, including every Tuesday at The Bone on Elm Street in Deep Ellum, every Wednesday (and, in April, every Sunday) at Hole in the Wall on Harry Hines Boulevard. And those are just the jams he hosts. In addition, there are gigs alone and with The Browntones, plus recording albums on his own and session work for other musicians. After all that, he's become a bit of a legend on his own. Hash Brown once gave a 15-year-old named Todd Deatherage a chance, and was repaid when Deatherage named his own band the Calways after his mentor. Not bad for a pale-skinned Yankee who found his niche in Deep Ellum. --S.S.
Winner for: Reggae
OK, so Sub Oslo isn't technically a reggae band. There is no "Buffalo Soldier" in its set, nor does the group play anything that even remotely resembles something performed by Bob Marley or any of his many offspring. There are, however, plenty of sounds that might be mistaken for buffaloes and/or soldiers and/or who knows what lurking beneath the thick cloud of sweet-and-sour smoke that hangs over every song on its 2000 debut, Dubs in the Key of Life, the kind of disc that creeps you out and creeps up on you at the same time, until you get comfortable being uncomfortable. The group has been fairly quiet since, turning up for the infrequent live gig and, recently, adding one of its songs (a live version of "Prisoner of Dub") to Babylon is Ours: The USA in Dub, a collection of--what else?--American dub artists released by Select Cuts. The reggae purists might argue that Sub Oslo is something else. Which is exactly why we're praising them. --Z.C.
Winner for: Latin/Tejano
Dallas has apparently pardoned Tio for his appearance on TV's fascinating romance-reality show Elimidate--just one example of the many arenas into which the young guitarist has forayed. He's dazzled the diners at Terilli's with his expertise in all things flamenco and a few things rock star, and now Tio and his spiky hair have stepped up to the mike in a different way, with the Flamenco Rock Concept. If the first single ("Grueso") and the addition of word-slinging MC Spookie to his feisty plucking is any indication, Tio and the group are definitely onto something new: flamenco-hop, I guess you could call it. But, that said, the Concept isn't just a dressed-up rap outfit, and it's not a Latin funk band, either; the music has too much respect for old-school composition and guitar technique to be lumped into the loose style of funk. Whatever they're doing, it's working: The audience reaction at the Deep Ellum Arts Festival was positive, KNON-FM DJ Kool Kris keeps playing "Grueso" on Friday afternoons and flamenco-rock fans trail Tio like the opening scene of Austin Powers. --M.M.